Noche de Gala brings energy to SIU

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Noche de Gala brings energy to SIU

Amalia Acuña, originally from Santiago, Panama, dances with Pedro Vazquez, of Humacao, Puerto Rico, on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016, during SIU's Noche de Gala event at the Student Center ballrooms. (Morgan Timms | @Morgan_Timms)

Amalia Acuña, originally from Santiago, Panama, dances with Pedro Vazquez, of Humacao, Puerto Rico, on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016, during SIU's Noche de Gala event at the Student Center ballrooms. (Morgan Timms | @Morgan_Timms)

Morgan Timms

Amalia Acuña, originally from Santiago, Panama, dances with Pedro Vazquez, of Humacao, Puerto Rico, on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016, during SIU's Noche de Gala event at the Student Center ballrooms. (Morgan Timms | @Morgan_Timms)

Morgan Timms

Morgan Timms

Amalia Acuña, originally from Santiago, Panama, dances with Pedro Vazquez, of Humacao, Puerto Rico, on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016, during SIU's Noche de Gala event at the Student Center ballrooms. (Morgan Timms | @Morgan_Timms)

By Tyra Wooten

More than 250 students and community members packed into the Student Center ballrooms Saturday night for the 14th-annual Noche de Gala, a salsa dance party organized as part of SIU’s month-long celebration of Hispanic and Latino culture. 

The party combined cultural dances of Bachata, Salsa, Merengue and Cumbia as participants danced to live music by Afinca’o — a group of musicians from the Chicagoland area that specializes in Salsa, Cha-Cha, Latin Jazz and some Merengue performances.

Gissell Obregon, a freshman from Fort Worth, Texas, studying radiological sciences, dances with her boyfriend of one week, Kaleb Green-Light, an undeclared freshman from Carbondale, on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016, during SIU's Noche de Gala event at the Student Center ballrooms. (Morgan Timms | @Morgan_Timms)

Gissell Obregon, a freshman from Fort Worth, Texas, studying radiological sciences, dances with her boyfriend of one week, Kaleb Green-Light, an undeclared freshman from Carbondale, on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016, during SIU’s Noche de Gala event at the Student Center ballrooms. (Morgan Timms | @Morgan_Timms)

Michael Cuthbertson, president of Sigma Lambda Beta — part of the multicultural Greek Council at SIU — said the gathering was in part about increasing cultural awareness.

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“Noche de Gala gives people an opportunity to broaden their ideas about the culture,” he said.

For Marcus Abston, a graduate student in zoology from Chicago, Noche de Gala reminded him of his mother.

“My mom lived in Mexico for a while and used to salsa dance with me,” Abston said.

Attendees of SIU's Noche de Gala event form a conga line on the dance floor Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016, at the Student Centre ballrooms. (Morgan_Timms | @Morgan_Timms)

Attendees of SIU’s Noche de Gala event form a conga line on the dance floor Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016, at the Student Centre ballrooms. (Morgan_Timms | @Morgan_Timms)

Renier Rosario, the lead singer in Afinca’o, which used basses, trumpets, pianos, bongos, tenor sax, trombone, congas and timbales to achieve their special sound, said the event had a good vibe and crowd.

“Music and dance are a part of Latino culture,” Rosario said. “Music unites us all as one.”

Staff writer Tyra Wooten can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @twootenDE.

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